From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Wishful Thinking

Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.

Jean Anouilh

“The Christmas tree is soooo much bigger than last year!” Jeffrey sing-songed in five-year-old fashion, dancing around the beautifully wrapped gifts. He turned to me, his chocolate-brown eyes reflecting the tree’s blinking lights. “Isn’t the tree much bigger and more beautiful than last year’s, Mommy?”

“It is a much bigger tree than last year’s tree,” I agreed. At least, that’s what I’d been told. Christmas 1985 was not even a memory for me. I had undergone two spinal-cord surgeries that year, and I didn’t have any recollections of the holiday.

A tabletop tree was all that my husband, Walter, had been able to manage. He tried to make it festive, but it had been difficult for both of them. But this year I was home, and we anticipated a festive Christmas for 1986.

After months in the hospital and rehab center, I had looked forward to life-like-it-used-to-be. Instead, I encountered reality and disappointment—in myself. While I was still making progress, it was slow, and I was not nearly where I had expected to be in my recovery. I wished things could be different. I wished everything could be as it once was.

With these thoughts in mind, I rose slowly from my chair and made my way to the stairs. Jeffrey stopped singing, and I knew he was watching me as I struggled to climb the steps. I heard quick little running steps, and he grabbed my hand to help.

He looked up and said in all solemnity, “Sometimes I wish it was me.”

Gripped by the power of his words, I hugged him tightly, burying my face in his wavy brown hair, squeezing my eyes shut to fight back the tears.

“Oh, no, Jeffrey, no!” I interrupted.

“But, if it was me,” he insisted, “you could carry me up the stairs.” His eyes brimmed with tears as he looked down at the floor. “I can’t carry you.”

His poignant, generous words jolted me like nothing else could.

In an instant, my introspective melancholy dissolved to a deep sense of gratitude and love. No, things were not the same as they once were—maybe they never would be. But now I realized just how unimportant that truly was. Especially in light of Jeffrey’s unselfish thoughts. Finally, I felt at peace.

I looked at the glowing Christmas tree. “You know, Jeffrey, I believe you’re right. This year’s tree is bigger and more beautiful than any other.”

Donna Lowich

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